Ven Lama Tharchin Rinpoche
In general, I try never to interfere in other people? business ·it? not my nature. However, at this time I feel a responsibility to reply to several letters-to-the-editor printed in the Winter 1998 issue of Tricycle Magazine. My motivation in writing this letter is to dispel serious misunderstanding of Dungs·Thinley Norbu Rinpoche? interview featured in the Fall 1998 Tricycle. Without clarification, this kind of negativity causes divisiveness among different spiritual and Buddhist paths, particularly in this country, and creates an obstacle for transmission of pure Dharma.
Having agreed to an interview, Rinpoche very generously and clearly answered Ms. Tworkov? questions regarding a current movement among many Buddhist groups in America aimed at ?iminishing the role of the teacher·and reliance on the ?ollective wisdom of the sangha· The interview was only partially published and heavily edited, demonstrating the weakness of our collective karma. I believe this caused confusion for many people. Through only having selected passages presented, many readers wrongly interpreted Rinpoche? words and motivation, stirring strong reactions of judgment, confusion, and doubt. Rinpoche? words of clarification were for the benefit of all beings and particularly for Western Buddhists and new practitioners unfamiliar with the deeper meanings of Buddhist tradition. While several of the letters imply that Rinpoche is merely insulting Americans, it is the duty of a teacher to point out our ignorance in order for us to recognize it and develop wisdom. The complete interview clearly displays Rinpoche? love for Westerners and his wish that they develop their wisdom qualities. Without wisdom, compassion can be very stupid, not beneficial to anyone. Rinpoche clearly sees our particular propensity for confusion in the West, especially our strong, sometimes almost imperceptible nihilistic habits and aversion to guru yoga which are often difficult for us to recognize. He can show us what is actually Dharma and what is just worldly culture.
There are also many comments defending the philosophical and political legacies of Western culture, and suggestions that Rinpoche is opposed to these. Clearly Rinpoche states that he is not opposed to these aspects, but rather that they should not be confused with the essence of Dharma. For instance, the idea of relying on the ?ollective wisdom of the sangha·is dangerous because while sangha members are on the path, purifying their own minds, they are still rooted in dualistic thinking and confusion. So this Western idea of democracy ·which relies on collective consensus from partial, worldly knowledge and opinion ·is not the same as the wisdom mind of a teacher holding lineage and realization. We can see that this worldly approach never leads to unchanging consensus and happiness. Collecting the opinions of confused beings only leads to a larger pile of confusion. For example, Buddhas manifest throughout the six realms according to the needs of beings. We cannot vote for the Buddha who will follow our agenda. On election day in the hell realms, the winner of the popular vote could only be a supreme hell being, not a sublime Buddha.
While it is true that the appearance of Buddhism naturally changes from country to country, its essence should not change. It is this essence which is so important to transmit by wisdom teachers who are not acting from confusion mind. It seems that people in this country are so eager to dispense with what they view as Asian culture and develop their own form of Buddhism that they do not recognize that they are holding strongly to their own culture. Reliance on a spiritual teacher is not cultural. It is essential.
Rinpoche? essential nectar or advice comes from his inexhaustible wisdom and compassion for everyone. Reading these negative letters about Rinpoche, I am reminded of someone trying to shoot an arrow at a target in a starless night. There is no aim, only confusion.
I would like to take this opportunity to share my limited Dharma view and experience. In general, sentient beings·afflictive emotions and karma are inconceivable. In the same way, Buddha? wisdom and compassion are inconceivable. Due to the connection between these two, Buddhas and bodhisattvas emanate unobstructedly, impartially, and unceasingly for beings·benefit. Buddhas appear in inconceivable forms according to sentient beings·varying energies and mental proclivities. It is beyond the capacity of our limited minds to grasp the entire picture. In a famous Buddhist teaching, Buddhas were shown to appear as mountains, trees, water, a bridge, a boat, as the most revered sublime teachers, and as the most disdained butchers or prostitutes, emanating in whatever form is beneficial for beings in order to lead them to liberation. When I was a child studying Buddhism in Tibet, I could understand that many things could be an emanation of Buddha, but I could not imagine that this could be true of a butcher. My father, however, showed me that while for those with faith, teachers appear, for those who have no faith in Buddha, other emanations appear. He told me a story about one of his teachers, a Lama who emanated two tulkus, one a Lama and one a butcher. When it was time for the Lama to die, he asked his attendant to send a message to the town butcher to hurry up, that the Lama was waiting for him. The butcher replied, ?ell the Lama to wait a little. I? expecting a special guest. As soon as I meet her, I will come immediately.·As the messenger was leaving, a man brought a female yak to be killed. As soon as he killed her, the butcher himself died. When the messenger returned, the Lama had also died. Their life forces were connected in this way. This butcher was the emanation of an enlightened being with the power to liberate each being as it was killed. While the Lama and the butcher? activity appeared to be opposite, actually it was the same ·to liberate beings from samsara. I understood then that it is impossible from a limited point of view to determine what is enlightened Buddha activity. Our own confusion mind never ends, so we must rely on a teacher, someone who has himself gone beyond limited dualistic mind and can show us the path.
Ordinary sentient beings do not have the innate capacity to choose enlightened teachers, like those uneducated in jewels don? have the ability to distinguish between diamond and glass. However smart we are, it is impossible to use intellectual dualistic mind to realize non-dual wisdom mind. We must rely on a wisdom teacher because, although we have Buddha nature, ultimate wisdom does not exist in our dualistic minds. Samsaric ego always tries to protect itself, and will trick us into thinking that we have gone beyond dualistic mind when we have not.
Although we intrinsically have Buddha nature, without a teacher, it is like churning water to get butter ·it won? happen. Of course, this teacher can be male or female, Asian or Western or from any country because realization is not related to culture.
Ven Lama Tharchin Rinpoche